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Moree picnics on May 26 set to open bush racing’s Golden Triangle

PICNIC race club officials at Moree, Mallawa and Talmoi – bush racing’s Golden Triangle – are dusting off the saddlecloths and preparing for another chapter of grass-roots thoroughbred racing across the black-soil plains.

It is a celebrated carnival that has gone largely uninterrupted for more than 100 years and horses, trainers, jockeys, owners and spectators are again expected to flock to this year’s edition.

Moree, with its huge focus on fashions-on-the field, opens the 2018 Golden Triangle on Saturday, May 26.

Mallawa, boasting a brand-new, undercover entertainment area, stages the middle leg on Saturday, June 9 at its unique horseshoe-shaped track about 75km west of Moree.

And Garah, a small village on the Carnarvon Highway about 50km north-west of Moree, wraps up the carnival on June 23 at its historic Talmoi racetrack.

There will 18 races across three meetings – perfectly spaced two weeks apart – with thousands of dollars’ worth of prize money and trophies on offer.

There will also be lucrative cash bonuses for trainers and jockeys as well as cash incentives for jockeys travelling vast distances to ride at all three meetings.

Peter and Nathan Sinclair are preparing a big team for this year’s Golden Triangle picnic racing carnival at Moree, Mallawa and Talmoi (Image Copyright Bill Poulos).

Each leg of the Golden Triangle is showcased by cup and bracelet events, and both features have been won by some extraordinary horses under big weights down through the decades.

Only three horses have won all three cups in the one year – Mulgate (1961), Gefilte (1988) and Tapakeg in 2014 – and only two horses, Bill’s Girl in 1977 and Port and Brandy 31 years later, have won all three bracelets.

Tapakeg was trained at Moree by Peter Sinclair and part-owned by then-Australian Turf Club CEO Dominic Neate and his wife, Karen.

The same day Tapakeg rewrote Golden Triangle history, the Neates also enjoyed success at Randwick dour staying mare Jo Jo Girl, but the high-profile couple preferred to be trackside at Talmoi.

“We live about 500 metres from Randwick racecourse but I’ve got no regrets about not being there. I made the right decision by coming up here (to Talmoi) to witness history,” Dominic Neate said moments after Tapakeg raced its way into bush-racing folklore.

“I’ll probably never again have the opportunity to win a Triple Crown up this way.”

Sinclair has called the Golden Triangle his own in recent years, especially the Boolooroo Cup at Moree.

Incredibly, Sinclair has trained 11 winners of the time-honoured race – the last six of them in succession.

Sinclair’s run began in 1995 when old marvel Sahara Bounty saluted under the guidance of Mark Webber.

“Sahara Bounty was a good horse and, really, anyone could’ve trained him,” Sinclair said.

Mulgate, arguably the greatest Golden Triangle picnicker of them all, wins the Boolooroo Cup at Moree. Mulgate became the first horse to win all three cups on the circuit in the one season (1961), a feat that has only been emulated twice since (Image Supplied).

“I was cutting my teeth as a trainer back then; he was educating me more than I was educating him.”

Sinclair went on to win the race with Midas Boy (2000-2001), Nepelle (2003), Jazzmaker (2007), Crystal Club (2012), Joppick (2013), Tapakeg (2014), One Double (2015), Dungiven (2016) and last year with Track Flash.

Sinclair’s son Nathan is no stranger to Golden Triangle success, either.

Nathan has won the Talmoi Cup with Trust Me Honey (2009), Innocent Billy (2011) and last year with Our Boy Danny as well as the 2009 Boolooroo Cup at Moree with Trust Me Honey.

He also collected the 2010 Moree Bracelet with Count Auray.

“I’ve won the cup at Moree and Talmoi but Mallawa has eluded me so far. Hopefully, that will change this year,” Nathan said.

Racing officially started at Talmoi in 1911 however there is documented evidence that meetings were staged as early as 1908 at Patrick Doran’s property, Noona Vale.

Mallawa picnic races – round two of bush racing’s Golden Triangle – draws punters from across the region (Image Copyright Bill Poulos).

Moree Picnic Race Club held its first meeting in 1924 – a two-day affair – and drew spectators from across NSW and Queensland.

Mallawa joined the circuit that would later become known as bush racing’s Golden Triangle in 1930 at a track on the property Narba.

However, like Talmoi, there are documented cases of race meetings being conducted in the area a few years earlier.

Fast-forward the calendar to 2018 and again all three meetings will be over-run with spectators, horses, owners, trainers and jockeys.

Justin Ramsay, president of the award-winning Talmoi Club, said race-goers are in for yet another fabulous Golden Triangle – the heart of bush racing in the heart of the country.

“This carnival just goes from strength to strength and brings thousands of people together at three magnificent race meetings that are steeped in history – it is bush racing at its best,” Ramsay said.

The Talmoi club will also see a significant spike in prize money this year.

“We have raised prize money for all races by a considerable amount – up by $7000 for the meeting,” Ramsay said.

“The entire prize money for six races is now $28,000, with the Talmoi Cup worth $8000 and the Talmoi Bracelet worth $5000,” Ramsay said.

Lucrative travel payments for jockeys as well as cash bonuses for the most successful rider will apply at all three legs of the Golden Triangle.

Horses competing at the carnival will also race for inclusion via a points system to the $50,000 Picnic Champion Series Final at the Dubbo Gold Cup meeting in September.

The final field is decided on points accrued at all picnic race meetings across NSW during the 2017-2018 turf season.

The inaugural final was won last year by Rodney Robb’s Security Code, and already the Nyngan trainer has at least four horses in contention for this year’s feature – Rusty Motorbike, Mango Liston, Austin and Rayne Park.

The series was hatched by Deidre Adam, secretary of the NSW Picnic Racing Association, and Craig Tyack, president of Tullibigeal Picnic Race Club.

“The series offers something worthwhile to picnic jockeys and trainers and is the first picnic TAB race in New South Wales,” Ms Adam said.

“The inaugural series generated plenty of interest last year and has already helped improve horse attendance at our picnic race meetings.”

To qualify for the NSW Picnic Champion Series Final, horses acquire points for every picnic race meeting they attend in NSW.

The highest ranked horses at the end of the 12 months are then eligible to nominate for the NSW Picnic Champion Series Final.

Words: Copyright Bill Poulos

Images: Copyright Bill Poulos